OPINION: Regulating digital news is important but freedom of press is precious

OPINION: Regulating digital news is important but freedom of press is precious
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  • In addition to governing OTT and social media platforms, the government has also put out new rules for digital news companies.
  • Digital news can be anything from press conferences to analysis pieces regardless of whether they’re socio-political, economic or cultural in nature.
  • Digital news organisations are facing a 30-day deadline to register themselves with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB).
The Indian government has come up with a new set of rules and regulations to regulate social media platforms, messaging services, OTT platforms and news portals.

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Digital news portals have now been brought under the ambit of the rules governing print and television media

News content in print and television media is regulated by laws specific to each medium, and no such laws were applicable to digital news till now. Digital news portals have now been brought under the ambit of the rules governing print and television media.

A wide net for what can be considered to be news

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In a move to level the playing field vis-à-vis print and television media, the Rules now require digital news portals to comply with norms of the Press Council of India, and the Programme Code under Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, 1995.

The term ‘news and current affairs’ was not previously defined under any legislation and created ambiguity. The Rules define ‘news and current affairs’ in a wide manner and may bring within its purview content which is not traditionally considered news.

“‘News and current affairs content’ includes newly received or noteworthy information, including analysis, especially about recent events primarily of socio-political, economic or cultural nature, available over the internet or computer networks,” define the new IT Rules.

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Register yourself if you want to be in the news business
All digital news portals are required to furnish their information to the MIB within 30 days of the notification of the Rules.

Overall, the Rules are a significant departure from the existing framework and impose considerable compliances for digital media. Digital media has provided Indian users an easy and accessible way to express themselves.

While the Rules aim to tackle problematic and unlawful content, whether a balance between freedom and regulation will be achieved, remains to be seen.

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Digital platforms will have to establish prescribed procedures and mechanisms to comply with the Rules and implementation of several processes will need further clarity.

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Facebook and Twitter have a ton of new rules to abide by in India ⁠— WhatsApp may find itself in the toughest spot of all

Facebook and Twitter have a ton of new rules to abide by in India ⁠— WhatsApp may find itself in the toughest spot of all

Digital news portals have now been brought under the ambit of the rules governing print and television media